A Mitchell Pearce try on return and a solid performance on debut from young fullback Nick Meaney guided the nib Newcastle Knights to a 18-16 win against the Parramatta Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.
A luckless Knights gave away an early penalty 10 metres out and Eels prop Siosaia Vave took advantage to side step around a run of defenders and land the first try of the night. Clint Gutherson added the extras for the visitors to lead, 6-0
Parramatta continued momentum with a precision kick off the boot of Bevan French to a sprinting Mitch Moses in the middle of the paddock. Moses out accelerated everyone to gather the bounce and dive over in the 10th minute. Eels out in front 10-0.
Minutes later Knights half Connor Watson got in on the action thanks to a trademark grubber from Mitchell Pearce. The ball rebounded off Watson's head, the result of a heavy tackle against Gutherson, before he finished with the grounding.
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Despite a no try from the on-field referee, it went to the bunker which over-ruled the decision. Ken Sio nailed the conversion to see the Knights trail by 4.
Newcastle kept chipping away and forced a number of errors from the Eels but found it difficult to convert into points.
The errors continued to flow for the Eels and the Knights were gifted a fresh set of six 10 metres from their line and with three minutes before halftime. The ball was juggled from hand to hand on the right edge before it ended up with Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
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The Knights winger sprinted to the corner, stopped short before he dodged his way through for the Knights second of the evening. Sio couldn't land the kick and it was tied 10-all at the break.
In the second half, the Knights stepped up their defensive efforts and dragged French from the field to regain possession only 20 metres from their line.
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It set off a confident drive to the line by Pearce on his comeback, who found a hole to dive over under the sticks. Sio finished with the kick straight through the uprights which saw the Knights take the lead, 16-10.
Not to be outdone the visitors replied in the 55th minute thanks to the handy work of Jarryd Hayne. The Eels centre broke a number of tackles before he dished off to Corey Norman who accelerated to the line. Gutherson made the all-important kick to lock scores at 16-all.
An undisciplined Eels gave up the ball up 15 metres from the Knights line and Sio opted for the penalty kick to put the Knights back in front, 18-16.
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Sensational hands from Sione Mata'utia saw him scoop the ball up and find some open space to run into before the centre off-loaded it to Watson who made a brilliant run 50 metres down field.
But, the Knights good work was soon undone, a silly mistake from Herman Ese'ese with an incorrect play the ball handed possession back to the visitors.
In the dying 30 seconds of the match a clever grubber puts French over, but it goes to the bunker and is deemed a no try with his foot on the line to deny the Eels the win.
The Knights celebrated a close encounter with the Eels 18-16.
Knights 18 (T: Watson, Kenny-Dowall, Pearce G: Sio 2/3, PG: Sio 1/1) defeated
Eels 16 (T: Vave, Moses, Norman G: Gutherson 2/3)